You know it and I know it. It’s a glaring human truth. It’s so obvious even children understand it.
No, the Great Revelation of This Post is not that ice cream is delicious, although that too is a glaring human truth.
It’s this: Routine cultivates success.
Before you see that success, of course, you have to cultivate the routine itself. Excellent workflow begets excellent results. This is the only reason I’m able to put my head down and get as much done as I do, so I thought I’d share it with you today.
Okaaaaaayyyyy so not to brag, but people often ask me how I get so much done in a day. I’m tempted to tell them I’m smart as hell and turned down an offer from MIT to chair their humanities department when I was 18 years old.
Which is true.*
But the real answer is something much more simple: I outline.
Boring, I know, but I believe outlining is key to a successful freelance writer workflow. I don’t just mean outline each individual piece you do, although that is also tremendously helpful. I also mean outline your day, your client workflow and your projects.
The latter is easiest: I simply catalogue every single piece of the project, then put it on a checklist and assign it a date. Boom. Outlining client workflow is a little tougher because that includes multiple clients, many of whom have multiple projects. I also outline the scope of each project, from initial discovery phone call through final delivery of projects 1, 2, 3, etc. As for outlining my day, well, that’s just called planning. If you don’t use a planner (and a shocking number of people do not (your Notes app doesn’t count)), then start.
As for outlining pieces themselves, this is HUGE. You don’t have to use the three-point-thesis model you learned in Honors English (although I still do sometimes, so don’t knock it), but you do need to wrap your head around each element of the project and get it all down on paper. This includes:
… and so on. I go into this in more detail in my complete outlining guide, which you can find in the Free Resource Library by clicking the box below.
* It’s not true.
I don’t care how awesome you think you are, it’s not a good idea to write and edit on the same day. Now, this doesn’t hold with short client projects that need to be turned around quickly, and I routinely start and deliver 500-word blog posts (or equivalent assignments) to a client all in one day.
I’m talking about bigger projects. When I write an ebook for a client, a long blog post for myself or a book (that one’s obvious), I always set aside plenty of time to rest my brain between stages. Otherwise, I won’t catch obvious errors, nor do I have enough perspective to see when a word, phrase or idea just isn’t working.
The trick is scheduling this into your flow. Whenever I have to do any longer project, I head to my calendar and choose actual physical dates for Draft, Write, Edit and Deliver … even if I’m only “delivering” to myself, say, posting to my blog. This ensures I won’t fall behind and builds in space since I might not listen to myself and would, therefore, push forward unwisely, but I will always listen to my calendar.
I’m sure you’ve already read this freelancing advice everywhere, but I’ll say it again: Outsource. As soon as you can afford it, find a trusty individual to help you with anything and everything that doesn’t make the best use of your time.
That doesn’t even mean you have to dislike what you’re passing off – in fact, I like most of what my VA does for me. But I send it to her anyway, because it makes my life easier and I can focus on what I do best, which is write. Also because she’s awesome and does it better than I could.
Yes, she is posting this for me.
Yes, I am sucking up to her.
Chances are you can’t afford to do this yet, and that’s okay. If you’re just starting out and doing it all yourself, just focus on building up your income, and someday you will be able to. If you’re in that boat, just remember: Get a VA before you think you can afford it. The amount of time you’ll free up will probably make up for the cost almost right away.
Look, it’s hard to get good at what you do. It takes blood and sweat and tears and years (and poetry, apparently).
The important thing is to start making meaningful strides in the directions of your dreams … in this case, being a self-employed writer who kicks butt. Want more help in that direction? Go ahead and check out the Free Resource Library by clicking on that pretty little picture below.
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